5 Garden Hacks for Seed-Sowing Success | Almanac.com

5 Garden Hacks for Seed-Sowing Success


Boost germination rates and speed up germination

When you’re sowing your garden seeds, do it right!  Sow seeds more easily with seed tape, soak your seeds to boost germination rates, and speed up germination with our excellent tips!

1. Space Out Seeds With Seed Tape

Do you find it hard to space out your seeds accurately? Then make your own seed tape. This method is perfect for spacing out smaller seeds.

For this you’ll need some toilet paper, a paste made from equal parts flour and water, and your seeds. Start by rolling out enough toilet paper to run the length of your row. Place a daub of paste at the correct spacing on the paper using an artist’s brush. Drop two seeds onto each daub of paste. Then fold over the toilet paper. The paste will help to hold it all together.

After drying, the seed tapes can be labeled then rolled up and stored until you’re ready to sow. To sow simply unravel the tape into the seed drill and cover to the correct depth with soil. Water along the row and, hey presto, they’re ready to grow!

You can also make squares of pre-sown seeds using paper towel. The same method applies: daub on your paste, add your seeds, then sandwich with another layer of towel. These squares are great if you grow your plants in blocks, for example if you’re using the square foot gardening method.

2. Sow Tiny Seeds Successfully

Tiny seeds such as carrots are notoriously tricky to sow evenly. Make the task easier by mixing the seeds with fine, dry sand.

Thoroughly mix together a pinch of seeds with a couple of teaspoons of sand, then sprinkle along your seed drill. Now fill in the seed drill.

3. Speed Up Germination of Big Seeds

Large seeds or seeds with a tough seed coat will germinate quicker if their coats are first punctured or softened, just before you want to plant them. This allows the water and gases necessary for germination to enter the seed faster.

A simple way to do this is to gently roll your seeds between two sheets of sandpaper until the seed coat just starts to rub off. Stop at this point or you risk damaging the seeds.

Or, soak your seeds in a bowl of lukewarm water for 24 hours. Soaking is an easy way to soften a hard seed coat to spark germination.

Good candidates for pre-soaking include: peas, beans, okra, corn, gourds, and squash. Parsley seeds also benefit from soaking for 48 hours, with a change of water halfway through.

4. Make Seeds Easier to Identify and Get Rid of Weeds

Some seeds are hard to make out against the dark soil. A simple way around this is to line your seed drill with toilet paper. The white background makes it easier to see your seeds and to space them evenly along the row.

Using a label will help you to locate rows of seeds, but if you want to be certain you can backfill your seed drill with potting soil so that it stands out from the surrounding soil. This is particularly useful once they start to grow, as it helps you to differentiate seedlings you’ve planted from weeds which need removing.

One other method is to mix quick-growing seeds such as radishes with slow growers like parsnips. The radishes will germinate within a few days to mark the location of the row. They’ll be harvested long before the parsnips grow big enough to need that extra space.

5. Pre-Sprout Seeds to Speed Germination

Another way to work with seeds that have a long germination time is to chit them – that simply means encouraging the seeds to sprout before planting them in the soil. This method works particularly well for those seeds that can take weeks to germinate, especially in cool weather. You can also use it for any early-planted seeds to speed things up.

Start by lining a sealable container with a couple of sheets of damp paper towel. Space out the seeds over the surface then add two more layers of damp paper towel over the top. Press on the lid. Keep the container in a warm place at about 65 to 70ºF. As soon as the seeds are showing tiny roots they are ready to plant. Don’t delay planting or the roots may end up distorted or forked. You needn’t worry about planting them the right way up - the seeds will naturally send the roots downwards.

Do you have a seed-sowing hack? If so, don’t keep it to yourself – share it by dropping us a comment below!

See the Almanac’s article on starting seeds indoors.

About The Author

Benedict Vanheems

Benedict Vanheems is the author of GrowVeg and a lifelong gardener with a BSc and an RHS General Certificate in horticulture. Read More from Benedict Vanheems

2023 Gardening Club

Gene (not verified)

2 years 2 months ago

For seeds like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and the Cole crops, like cabbage and broccoli, I begin by germinating the seeds inside, using a heat mat, if necessary (my garage is not heated and it seems to help if you warm even the Cole’s up a little bit). The seeds are placed between two layers of paper towel, and placed in a plastic bag.
In this way, you can check your germination rate as well as starting germination.

When the seeds sprout they go into small pots of potting soil and under grow lights until the are big enough to transplant. The lights are on for about 14 hours a day, and I fertilize with 1/2 strength water soluble fertiliser, (the blue stuff). Lifting them off the paper towel and into the pot is a delicate operation, and if you wait until the little roots get too big, they will grow into the paper. If you can’t check them every day, one way to stop this from happening (mostly) is to use just one sheet of towel, no sandwich, into the plastic bag, and store the seeds that you are waiting to sprout upside down, ie., paper side up, so the roots grow away from the paper towel.
When it comes time to plant them outside be sure to acclimate the little seedlings to the sun before planting them outside. This usually takes about a week or so.
For all my plantings I do a germination test on all seeds more than 1 year old, so as not to waste growing time.
Be sure to give your seedlings some protection against the munchers (like birds, squirrels, mice, rabbits, deer, whatever roams around your garden looking for a snack). Good Growing!

Jeff Heinz (not verified)

3 years ago

I use a drip line method in my garden. I prepped the soil and turn the drip line on for a few minutes to spot each drip. I then plant the seed on the down side of the waterline.

Jack (not verified)

4 years 1 month ago

I take the coffee K-Cups cut off the top foil, clean out the coffee grounds and spread them in the garden then remove the paper filter. Once this is complete I fill the K-Cups with good soil and begin early planting my seeds. This works well for green beans. I put 2 seeds in each cup. With the hole in the bottom of the K-Cup when watering it allows the excess water to escape. When the bean plants are a couple of inches high they are removed from the K-Cups and planted in their rows in the garden.

Anne Wirkkala (not verified)

4 years 1 month ago

Cover rows of newly planted seeds with plastic plant trays that are used in plant selling centers, be sure they are the mesh kind. this will keep birds, chipmonks, etc from digging them up BEFORE the seeds have a chance to grow. remove the trays once the plants are established .

Kathy C (not verified)

4 years 1 month ago

I start peas indoors, inside of clean eggshell halves. When they are ready to plant just crack the shell all around with a spoon and plant. This gives me a head start with them, they are not good at regular transplantation, and the shell adds nutrients. You can also use cut toilet paper or paper towel tubes for this and other transplants.

Carol (not verified)

4 years 12 months ago

When planting a row of seeds, I have a small diameter PVC pipe that is a comfortable length for me to use. After making a straight furrow in the soil, I hold the pipe at a slight angle and drag it in the furrow and drop the seeds down through the pipe. Prevents the seeds from bouncing out of the furrow when I drop them down. The just walk back covering the furrow.

Spencer (not verified)

5 years ago

I start some of my plants indoors, with a small 2 tube fluorescent light. I keep the light on 247. This simulates continuous sunshine. Which encourage the seeds to sprout faster.

Debb Rekker (not verified)

7 years 1 month ago

I place peas, beans, etc. on the surface of loosened soil and then just push them in up to the first finger joint. It's approximately one inch, mid digit would be two inches. A quick pinch closes the small hole.